Oksana Masters and Kendall Gretsch win first Team USA medals at 2022 Paralympic Winter Games

Oksana Masters reacts as she crosses the finish line in the women’s sprint in the seated biathlon at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on March 5, 2022 in Beijing.

ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Team USA’s Oksana Masters and Kendall Gretsch got things off to a great start by winning the first two medals of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on Saturday at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Center.

Masters and Gretsch won gold and bronze, respectively, in 20:51.2 and 21:52.9 in the women’s parabiathlon sprint race. China’s Yilin Shan finished in silver medal position in 21:06.3.

Masters was shocked and thrilled to cross the finish line and win Team USA’s first gold medal at these Paralympic Games. The victory earned Masters his 11th career Paralympic medal and his fifth Paralympic gold medal.

“To be able to start the Paralympic Games in Beijing and bring Team USA home with a gold medal is absolutely amazing,” Masters said. “And it’s amazing because I can do it again with my teammate on the podium by my side… I think it just shows that there are amazing things that are going to happen for the American team in the para-nordic program.”

Masters, the most decorated athlete on Team USA competing at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, said his goal for the Games was “to chase those perfect runs.”

She is one of the strongest cross-country skiers in the field, but has struggled in the past with shooting, most recently at the world championships in January. She was stunned to learn that she shot this run cleanly and said she had to do a double take to make sure the target really went down.

“It’s really amazing because at the world championship in Lillehammer I think I missed more shots than I made. It wasn’t a good shot for me,” she said. declared. in what I’ve done and I know I can do it. And don’t rush the process, read someone else’s notes, and just take each shot one at a time.

Gretsch, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist, added her first Paralympic bronze medal to her resume.

“We’re the first race to kick off and hopefully we can set the tone for the rest of the races and the rest of the American team,” Gretsch said.

Masters, 32, was thrilled to share the podium with her American teammate, who finished just over a second behind.

“Kendall is an incredible biathlete,” Masters said. “Honestly, I started this race and I agree, Kendall won, so now I’m just going for a second because she’s an amazing, consistent sniper and skis well.”

The duo arrived in Beijing after winning gold just six months ago at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games – Masters with two in road cycling and Gretsch in paratriathlon.

“It’s very different from the conditions in Tokyo today,” joked Gretsch after the race. “Trying to channel the heat I had there when it was so cold. But it’s exciting. It’s always fun to be at the Paralympic Games.

The 29-year-old from Downers Grove, Ill., competed at these Games as the defending world champion in three biathlon events and plans to compete in a full program of six Nordic events.

Lera Doederlein, 18, made her Paralympic debut alongside Gretsch and Masters to finish ninth in the women’s sit sprint race. The multi-sport athlete found her way to Para-Nordic skiing in 2019 after connecting with masters on social media.

“For me, it’s been a pretty amazing experience for me (running with Oksana and Kendall),” Doederlein said. “Especially since I’m only 18 and this is my first Paralympic Games. I would say especially in this first race, it was quite incredible to experience that with them.

Team USA’s Dani Aravich was the only American athlete to compete in the women’s standing sprint race, finishing 13th in the competition.

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